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Because I <3 Kate DiCamillo!

I’ve mentioned my fondness for reading out loud to my kids.  We do occasionally read picture books; I find them fascinating, particularly the illustrations and the complexity that can be found in stories simply told.  But mostly we read chapter books out loud.  We have read everything from classics (Heidi, Little Women, The Secret Garden, Dickens, etc) to newer releases (Ungifted, Homesick, Liar & Spy, The Graveyard Book, etc).  I think we have all enjoyed everything that we have read together, there were no real losers, and we enjoy the time together regardless, but some of our favorites have been novels by Kate DiCamillo.  She weaves magical tales that are completely absorbing, include captivating illustrations, and are a pleasure to read aloud (Dickens – not so much!).  Since I believe we have completed all of her children’s novels, I thought I would share a summary of them and what I particularly loved about each.  Don’t dismiss these novels just because you don’t have kids – or because they’re too young or too old – these are great stories for any of us!
Image“The world is dark, and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I’m telling you a story.”  This is how The Tale of Despereaux begins and you are completely enchanted until the very end.  DiCamillo has written a modern-day fairy tale, the story of a mouse that is not like other mice, with his love of music, books, and the princess.  The story of a rat that lives in the darkness but is enchanted by light.  And the story of a slow-witted servant girl who simply wishes to be a princess.  Their stories all come together as the author directly tells you, the reader, this intertwining story in beautiful and thoughtful language.  While I loved all of her books, this was by far my favorite (a mouse that loves to read – how can you go wrong?).  The movie?  Don’t bother!

   Title: The Tale of Despereaux
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 272
   Publication: Candlewick, 2003

ImageEdward Tulane is a conceited china rabbit (yes – you read that right, but trust me – it works!) who is lost by his owner and goes on a journey of redemption, to learn of love and loss, from garbage piles to the bottom of the ocean to a hobo camp and beyond.  “Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart…”

   

  Title: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 228
   Publication: Candlewick, 2006

ImageOpal moves with her father, the preacher, to Florida where she finds Winn-Dixie, a big, ugly, loveable dog who will be the friend she needs so desperately, while helping her to make friends in this new place.  She spends the summer learning the stories of Otis (the ex-con running the pet store), Franny (the local librarian), and Gloria (the blind woman who sees into Opal’s heart), while also using Winn-Dixie to get her father to tell her about her long-gone mother.  Opal will start to grow up, learn how to make friends, and begin to understand forgiveness, all with the help of a dog named after a grocery story.  “It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.”  The movie based on this book is definitely worth watching AFTER you read the book (let’s face it – the book is ALWAYS better!).

   Title: Because of Winn Dixie
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 288
   Publication: Candlewick, 2000

ImageA fortune teller answers Peter’s question with an odd answer – an elephant will lead him there.  The question?  Peter is an orphan and wants to know if his little sister is still alive.  The same day, a magician will somehow conjure an elephant which will bring together the lives of Peter, a society matron, a beggar, the magician, a policeman, a sculptor, and a nun in a series of events that will eventually lead him to his answer, and will provide answers to others as well.  “That is surely the truth, at least for now. But perhaps you have not noticed: the truth is forever changing.”

   Title: The Magician’s Elephant
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 208
   Publication: Candlewick, 2009

ImageRob’s mother has died of cancer and he and his father move to Florida looking to find a new life.  Rob is terribly unhappy when he meets someone else new at school, Sistine, who is also struggling with the hope that her father is going to come and get her.  When Rob discovers a caged tiger in the woods, the events that follow will allow him to understand what it means to be free, to open up and forge a friendship with Sistine, learn to forgive his father, and deal with his grief.  “Rob had a way of not-thinking about things.  He imagined himself as a suitcase that was too full… He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and he locked it shut. That was the way he not-thought about things.  Sometimes it was hard to keep the suitcase shut.  But now he had something to put on top of it.  The Tiger.  Rob imagined the tiger on top of his suitcase, blinking his golden eyes, sitting proud and strong, unaffected by all the non-thoughts inside straining to come out.”

   Title: The Tiger Rising
   Author: Kate DiCamillo
   Genre: Children’s Fiction
   Pages: 128
   Publication: Candlewick, 2001

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One thought on “Because I <3 Kate DiCamillo!

  1. Pingback: Flora & Ulysses | Watching the Words

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